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Let the Musician, let the Composer speak !

Aggiornamento: 30 mar 2021

Andy Harder’s „Jazz Suite for Clarinet and Orchestra“

Jazz pianist, composer and arranger Andy Harder combines great keyboard technique and decades of performing to audiences with a vast experience in writing music. He has recorded, performed and collaborated with many celebrated artists including the likes of Billy Cobham, Gerry Sweets Edison, Johnny Griffin, Roy Hargrove, and Milt Hinton.

Harder’s compositions include numerous works for piano solo, chamber groups, jazz ensemble, saxophon quintet, brass band and big band.

Andy Harder is also active as a conductor, clinician and producer and Professor of Music (Piano, Ensemble) at Zurich University of the Arts.

To delve into the broad repertoire of Andy Harder’s rich creativity, we pick one single piece of his, the outstanding composition „Jazz Suite for Clarinet and Orchestra“.

With this Andy Harder has made his way through a four-part suite that mixes jazz with counterpoint, odd meters, a waltz feeling and the rhythms of Latin music. From the polyrhythmic feeling of the first part („Seven Four For Five“) to the 3/4 meter of the second („Waltz“), the third („Ballad) and the fourth pulsing part ("Fantasy On a Latin Theme“) the piece covers a wide range of tonal colors, rhythms, and melodic contours.

Seven Four For Five 6:05

Waltz 4:10

Ballad 3:58

Fantasy On a Latin Theme 5:16 Total Time 19:29

The piece is a sheer pleasure, and, small wonder, it was recorded by renowned clarinet player Wenzel Grund and the Apollon Quartet.

Andy Harder, musician – composer, was kind enough to engage in some conversation with Hortus-Deliciarum (H.-D.) about this highly inspired project, shedding light on some astonishing apects.


Your „Jazz Suite for Clarinet and Orchestra“ is a most extraordinary piece of music, and, it seems to me, it also reflects quite a bit of your own personality. Am I right ? How do you see yourself as a jazz composer?

Andy Harder:

Robert Schumann once said that composing music is simple – all you have to do is to remember a melody, one that has not yet come to anybody’s mind ... This may sound simple, indeed, even though there are quite a few among us creating melodies that have been written before... But then, Bach was even more straightforward, hitting the nail on the head when saying that all you have to do is to press the right key at the right moment.


Interesting enough, indeed! Please tell us more about it ...


I shall try, even though I am aware of the fact that music as such needs no explanation. Or in the words of Victor Hugo ... music expresses what you cannot say in words, and which you cannot pass over in silence ...


Nice words spoken! What is the story behind the „Jazz Suite for Clarinet and Orchestra“? How did it come about?


Wenzel Grund asked me to write a piece that would particularly suit him and his Orchestra ... as if this were too easy a task to accomplish! There are various ways of composing. One way of doing it is – you may sit and wait to be inspired by your Muse, as the saying goes. However, this seems tricky, not knowing when this will happen, or if it will happen at all, for that matter ...


How exactly did you tackle the whole idea, the concept, how did you approach the whole process?


Actually, the more efficient way of composing a piece like that is planning what you mean to create, an approach not much different from an architect building a house, a whole housing estate. The architect will ask questions like: What size is the site? How many people are meant to live there? How much money is at your command? How about the adjacent streets? Accordingly, how high should the buildings be?

In fact, this is the way I chose when writing the „Jazz Suite“. I gave thought to the musicians involved, to the length of time of the piece, to aspects of style and orchestration, to developping ideas regarding the melody, harmony, rhythm, as well as to ideas of a more formal kind. Eventually I made a choice and from this I created the four parts of the Suite.


Well, no Muse then .... ?


Haha (laughs) quite the contrary ! What I’ve just said may sound somewhat abstract, in fact it is after this process that the Muse poked her nose round the corner, granting inspiration ... You won’t do without it!


To my ears the Suite sounds organically very well-structured, it being in four parts. Could you say a few words about its first part?


It is Seven Four for Five, combining a rocky groove in the 7/4 metre with a lyrical, contrapuntal part. Interested in the second part, are you ?


Most definitely!


Right, Waltz – the second movement – forms a part with a swinging ¾ feeling, numerous modulations, then giving way to an extended clarinet solo.


The third part seems much different to me, slower, reminiscent somewhat of those movements in classical music, if I may say so ?


Let’s put it this way, the third part is the Ballad ! As such it is a very slow-moving, lyrical piece, full of colourful harmonies, and granting loads of space for the string instruments.

An extract from the score of the slow third movement


And with the finale you enter a totally different world ...


Right, it is the fourth part, the „Fantasy on a Latin Theme“, as such it is a very fast moving part, inspired by Cuban and Brasilian rhythms and melodies, including extended solo parts for clarinet as well as for the first violin.

The more I cannot say – let the music speak !


How do you look back on the whole creative process?


I am very obliged to Wenzel Grund who triggered the whole idea. Equally to the musicians of the Apollon Quartet for investing such a lot of work and passion into the whole piece. Marvellous !


And to end with ....


... why not end on a note by George Gershwin: „Life is like jazz, best thing you can do is improvise.“


What a pleasure! All very enjoyable, indeed. Thanks a million Mr Harder.


My pleasure. Thank you.

Jazz Suite for Clarinet and Orchestra by Andy Harder is available on CD - Triart Recording.

Including a lovely booklet, providing information on the artist and his work of art.

(also including Arnold Schönberg’s String Quartet in D Minor, Op. 7, from his pre-dodecaphony phase, late Romanticism, a bit Mahleresque)

In any proper shop or on the internet.

H.S.- Merlin


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